STREATHAM STRIKER No.1
A sift through recent postings to alpcs plus some press publicity
The first days' picketing went very well at Streatham, Balham and Wandsworth. Those of you with access to the web will see that the dispute is headline news on the PCS website, and a press release has now been issued nationally.
Streatham strike committee has established a strike centre and will be pleased to receive messages of solidarity/details of personal or Branch donations, requests for updates etc on email@example.com. If it is really necessary to contact us by phone, ring PCS HQ and ask for the Streatham strike centre.
We are issuing the following leaflet from the picket lines to members of the public, PCS logo at the top:
"The staff at this office are on strike. In the UK 1 in 5 workers is subject to a violent attack or abuse at work every year.
We apologise for the inconvenience to you but the strike is the fault of the Government.
This office is due to test a new customer service called Jobcentre Plus. It will provide both job advice and benefits. At present Benefits Offices are screened. In future the Government want almost all of this work including benefit work to be done in unscreened offices.
We are on strike because we believe this is unsafe.
Most people who visit this office would never be violent. But some people are abusive and violent to staff. This is mostly when Benefit decisions cause anger and frustration. Remember we only work here; the Government makes the rules.
- Assaults on Employment Service staff have increased twelve fold since 1987
- In the Benefits Agency the number of recorded incidents last year has doubled to over 5000
- Only recently one of our offices was firebombed in Staveley and a police officer was stabbed in a Jobcentre in Croydon
We are entitled to be safe at work. We have tried to negotiate a safe workplace but the Government won't listen to our concerns.
Give us your support. If you agree that Benefit staff are entitled to work in safety write to your MP, councillor or your local newspaper.
Issued by the Public and Commercial Services Union"
MBC have been ordered to undertake the processing of I.S and JSA claims from the Balham offices involved in the dispute. Anyone who refuses will face disciplinary action - suspension or potential dismissal.
My members have gone ballistic.
An indicative ballot taken yesterday, (04.09.01) resulted in a clear mandate for industrial action if the employer is unwilling to reverse their decision.
I am anxious that the Brent strikers are aware that MBC DOES NOT want to scab.
I am anxious that all PCS members know that my members are apopelptic at the enforced strike breaking that the employer has presented us with.
Without an immediate retraction of this odious order, MBC is ready and willing to begin industrial action.
Despite the support of the GEC, we all know that serious industrial action will not take effect until the statutory periods have been served.
As Branch Chair I wish the rest of PCS to know that MBC will not scab. I see the enforced blacklegging that my members have been presented with to be a fundamental attack upon the right of all trade union members to conduct their employment with dignity. The insulting disdain with which the employer has treated us is an attack, and a warning to ALL union branches in the civil service. If they are allowed to force us to strike break, the threat of strike becomes useless.
This policy must, and will be defeated, or it will be your office faced with enforced blacklegging next.
To my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of organised unions that civil servants have been oredered, upon threat of disciplinary action, to undertake the work of legitimately striking colleagues.
With the support of PCS GEC we will not stand for it. Failure is not an option, or the entire movement is fatally undermined.
There are further details that will be of use to members on Brent and Crystal Palace but they cannot be communicated via a public forum.
Anyone needing further infomation, or any activists from the affected areas, please contact me via this forum or the MBC branch directly.
Branch Chair Makerfield Benefit Centre
Brent and Streatham offices will no longer be alone in their strike action soon. Notice has been given to management that both ES and BA members in all the other Pathfinder offices nationally will be balloted next week on all out strike with 85% strike pay.
Our branch has managed to get Exeter Do included in the action as well, despite it not being a Pathfinder office, as all benefits for the area covered by the East Devon Pathfinder are processed there.
It seems from the previous posting about MBC that management are already panicking - they're also trying to force ES managers in Devon to go and scab in Brent and Streatham! Seems like we're givin' them something else to worry about now....
BA Devon Admin Branch
We expect more imported scab managers to try(!) to operate some form of emergency payment system in Balham office next week. Small numbers of emergency payments have been made this week by pre-booked appointments at 3pm, but none of the BA offices involved in the Streatham dispute has opened to the public. We also anticipate trainees trying to open Wandsworth BA under the watchful eye of 2 (non member) training officers. BA HQ at Leeds have been made aware of this.
Ponder this: Management grades on Temporary Promotion, Inner London weighting, detached duty terms with London rate overnight subsistence, special bonuses (not clear on the details), as much evening and weekend overtime as they can eat, and all for the few (about 20 a day) emergency payments - these being delivered from a screened environment in a closed office with as many security guards as they can muster and two coppers hovering outside the door in case of trouble. Heroic innit, especially when the District is understaffed in the admin and exec grades because management told us they'd run out of money...
Management is also adopting dirty tricks - the underhand movement of work, ringing a striker at home to try to intimidate her (robust action has been taken on this, and it has strengthened the member's resolve), spreading outright lies such as the dispute does not have the backing of national officers, it's just a couple of firebrand local reps having a stir, that the dispute only has local support, that strike pay is taxable, that if you're claiming Working Families Tax Credit (as many of our admin, and some exec grades do) you will lose it and have to reclaim.
They're also keeping a close eye on the number of official pickets, and getting the police to check that the pickets are actually involved in the dispute. Of course, we welcome as many friendly "passers by" to visit our official pickets, to discuss the finer points of the dispute at great length, preferably between the hours of 7am to 10am.
Our first newsletter will be going out to our strikers and other interested parties early next week and I'll post a text copy of it here.
There's a new press release from PCS, the text is as follows:
Union Announces Plan To Escalate Strike Over Screens In New Agency Offices
7 September 2001
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Britain's largest Civil Service union with over 270,000 members, and 70,000 in the new Department for Work and Pensions, today announced that indefinite strikes in two pilot offices of the new Jobcentre Plus offices in Streatham and Brent, over the removal of safety screens, would be extended nationwide if management failed to respond to safety concerns.
The PCS has served notice on management that it plans to ballot over 2,000 members in Benefits Agency and Employment Service offices throughout England Wales and Scotland, commencing on Friday 14 September.
PCS official Frank Bonner said: "Only yesterday we received a report of a security guard in Bradford being assaulted by a member of the public wielding a hammer. Removing security screens from benefit offices will place many more of our members at risk of this kind of assault."
Over 400 members in Neasden, Streatham, Balham and Wandsworth are supporting the action at present, and there have been arguments with management about measures they have taken to try and circumvent the strike. Union members at Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan are seeking a meeting with Minister Ian McCartney over plans to use their staff to do work normally processed in Balham and Streatham.
The union reported that support for the action in the first week had been very good with members showing solid support for the strike and new members being recruited on the picket lines.
Streatham union representative John Stanley said: "We're all for improving services to the public, but we don't see that coming at the expense of our members' health and safety. The public understand why screens have to be there and the vast majority don't have any problem. If there was a suitable alternative to a physical barrier that ensured the safety of our members, we would consider it, but nobody has come up with one yet."
PCS negotiator Eddie Spence said: "We will be having further talks with management on Monday 10 September, and hope that a solution could be found to the dispute. But our members have always made it clear to management that safety is an issue that cannot be compromised."
Sent: 09 September 2001 18:05
Subject: [altpcs] Re:Strike locations
Could someone please post details of the ADDRESSES of the offices on strike.
That way those of us who travel to London on official or PCS business
could show some solidarity by joining the pickets for a time on our way
to/from PCS or official premises. The London Yellow pages doesn't list
offices by names, just postcodes, so if you give us an address we can find
you with the aid of an A-Z!
Streatham ES & BA: Crown House, Station Approach, Streatham, London SW16
(directly behind Streatham BR station)
Balham BA: Irene House, 218 Balham High Road, Balham, London SW12
(Almost next door to Balham BR & Northern Line Tube)
Wandsworth BA: Arndale House, 1 Arndale Walk, Garratt Lane, Wandsworth,
(Arndale Centre, Wandsworth end of Garratt Lane, picket in car park above
the Post Office - BA staff entrance)
Chris can post the Brent details which I do not have directly to hand.
See you all there.
Below is an extract from a Speach by DWP head, Rachel Lomax, to Pathfinder managers last week concerning the PCS strike action. This appeared on the DWP Intranet that most BA staff at least now have access to. I wrote a reply on the DWP Intranet discussion site challenging the points made in it, without abuse etc., but within hours it had been deleted. In other words management will not allow debate on this issue. Some 'partnership'! When I Ilooked the DSS PCS link it was well out of date, and it was still urging members to vote for the crap July pay offer! There is also no link to the national PCS site which is up to date re the Pathfinder dispute. Can the PCS people responsible please update the PCS DWP site urgently! This must be used to carry strike reports and link to the national site. We must not allow management to dominate what is an increasingly important tool of
propaganda within offices, particularly where there is no rep on site.
People will see from Lomax's drivel just what DWP members are up against. There is an air of unreality in her comments, and it reads like a religious cult gathering. For all her planned shiney new offices, crisis loans are
still going to be refused, benefit payments are still going to be late, benefit applications are still going to be rejected, and sanctions are still going to be imposed. None of this will change in this 'modernisation'. Furthermore, the DWP claimants who are high on hard drugs, or out of it on booze will not suddenly take the pledge. Nor will those with serious forms of mental illness that are prone to unpredicatable violence suddenly be cured, or stop claiming Incapacity Benefit. Her comments are a sick fantasy, based upon the toy-town politics of New Labour, who are indeed playing politics with civil servants lives. Will Lomax, Leigh Lewis or Alistair Darling come to the funeral of the first DWP member of staff killed if the screens come down? Will they explain their actions to the relatives? I doubt it. So let's take this fight all the way - WE CAN, AND MUST, WIN!
Jim Dye, BA Liverpool
Extract from Rachel Lomax speech to Pathfinder Managers, Birmingham 4.9.01
Let me say something at this point about the immediate challenge of the
industrial action which the PCS is taking over screens.
We face a choice. A choice either to continue to operate in an environment
which assumes that any member of the public walking in through the office
door is a potential source of danger and trouble. Or, on the other hand, to
treat the people we serve as we would like to be treated ourselves. To offer
customers a welcoming and accessible environment but at the same time to
take steps to reduce the risk to staff and customers alike.
We believe I believe, Leigh believes, Ministers believe that we only have
one choice. And that is: we think it right that Jobcentre Plus should take
the second route.
But I want to stress one thing above all. That doesn't mean we expect you to
deliver identical processes to now in identical offices to now, but simply
without the screens. This change is part of a much wider change as we
improve the service we offer our customers. And we aim to deliver that
service in offices which are light years away from some of the surroundings
in which we are forced to deliver services now.
We are supporting you in this in huge investment in the IT and in the kind
of office environment you will be working in. We have conducted risk
assessments in the offices, and are committed to implementing their
recommendations. No one's intention is that you should be put at any
personal risk. We also accept that there will always be some interventions
and some people that would present an unacceptable risk in an open plan
environment. That is why, in every Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder, there will be
at least one office, or one separate part of an office, which will remain
screened, and in which we will handle issues such as Social Fund Crisis
I also want to say something from my perspective as Permanent Secretary,
about how I see this industrial action. No one ever relishes or wants
industrial action. Greatly regret we have reached this point; do understand
the concerns there are. But greatly regret that PCS turned down the set of
very substantial proposals which we made to them to try and meet their
concerns, including putting two of the pathfinders where the issues have
been the most contentious on hold while we went through the risk assessment
process completely afresh so that staff and union alike could be assured all
risks to staff safety had been identified and appropriate measures put in
It is, of course, the right of PCS having obtained a majority for strike
action in Brent and Streatham to call a strike. But it is also the right of
management to resist such action where they believe it to be fundamentally
wrong. Which we do.
And what is at risk, I believe, is an opportunity that may not quickly come
again. An opportunity to demonstrate public servants delivering a modernised
public service. We cannot let this opportunity slip.
So let no one be in any doubt. We will resist this action; this is of
central importance to Government and its agenda. We will do whatever it
takes to maintain service to our customers; and we will see this through if
we have to for as long as it takes, in support of what we believe to be
This does not mean that we will not go on looking for a way to resolve this
dispute. Of course, we will. If we can do more to meet the real concerns
that we know exist over screens, then we will. But only to be clear within a
framework where we can deliver Jobcentre Plus in a predominantly unscreened
Not out of dogma; but because we simply can not deliver the service we
aspire to from behind screens. It is a question of starting from the service
that our customers need from us rather than from the service we have been
accustomed to deliver.
I hope all of you will accept that . I know that won't always be easy. But
previous experience shows that it can, and that it will work. We will need
your help in putting it into practice. Please talk to your managers and your
colleagues about your concerns. But to be clear, what Minister, what Leigh,
what I, and most of all what customer want of each of you is a commitment to
make it work.
What Leigh, the senior managers and I can promise you in return is that we
will listen to your concerns and take them seriously. Because this can't
happen without you.
Because the task of delivering Jobcentre Plus is massive. You are an
absolutely key part of the enormous community of people who are working to
bring this change about. We need to share our experiences and provide a
network of support to ensure that we deliver. What I can promise to you is
that Leigh, the rest of the Executive Team and I will be working closely
together to ensure that you get all the support that you need.
PRESS / PUBLICITY
Croydon Advertiser 24/08/01
Local Wigan paper, last week
By Helen Parrott
Chief Reporter North
Two uniformed policemen who were seriously injured following a disturbance at Croydon job centre have spoken about their terrifying ordeal.
PC Phil Carrouth 34 was stabbed in the face and head with a Stanley knife. And his colleague 37 year old Sgt Paul Blanchflower was badly bruised and left with whiplash after they were called to escort a man from the building in Dingwall Road.
The officers were called by concerned staff to help with a man who had spoken to the security guard and had been having his claim dealt with by a seven-month pregnant member of staff.
The Job Centre was full last Thursday morning and had to be quickly evacuated after the disturbance broke out.
Both officers, who work with the town centre team at Croydon police station, are
still on sick leave unsure of when they will be allowed to return to duty following the sickening attack. But agreed to speak to the Advertiser this week.
PC Carrouth, who returned to policing last year after ten years out of the job, said he had been finding it difficult to sleep because of pain and headaches since the stabbing. He said: "At first I thought I had been punched, I did not realise I had been stabbed until I saw blood on my clothes. That was when I saw he had a knife."
An officer for over13 years Sgt Blanchflower, who has bruises to his head, face and back, had also had sleepless nights through pain.
He said he had faced dangerous situations before, adding: "We were on duty just doing our job. We weren't scared because we didn't expect to be in that situation. You don't have time to think about how you feel when you are faced with a violent incident.
"It just happens, you can't prepare for it. But you are trained to deal with the threat and diffuse the situation as quickly as possible."
Neither officer believed their experience would stop members of the public wanting to join he police.
Sgt Blanchflower said, "I joined the police force because I wanted to help. In my personal experience when officers have been seriously injured in the past I find it has the reverse effect and you see more people wanting to join up."
Det Insp David Nesbitt: "This was just an everyday call such as our officers deal with time and again. They were uniformed officers attacked without warning while they were trying to do their job."
- Unemployed Roger Deans 33, of Birchhanger Road, South Norwood was charged with wounding PC Phil Carrouth when he appeared at Croydon Magistrates Court on Friday.
He was remanded in custody and is due to appear at Croydon Crown Court today (Friday).
UNION FURY AT
'We will not cover
for striking staff'
By Richard Bean
Angry Wigan workers are threatening industrial action if bosses use them as strikebreakers in a national dispute with Government.
More than 500 civil servants at the huge Griffin House benefits computing centre, in Bryn, are calling in Pensioners Minister Ian McCartney - whose representations brought the service to Makerfield - over fears they will be forced into "scabbing".
The benefits centre deals with social security payments for the London area and offices in the capital are due to take indefinite strike action from tomorrow.
Now Wigan staff say they have been told they will have to take on the work of striking colleagues or face internal disciplinary action or even dismissal.
Management's decision could now see the Bryn staff join the dispute.
The London strike is over the removal of protective screens from the public counters in local benefits offices.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) staff union says this will threaten members' safety.
Griffin House PCS branch chairman Phil Easton said: "Wigan has a long and proud history of union activity and it is an utter disgrace that my members are being forced to act as scab labour for the Government.
"I am astounded that this area, with its staunch union support and a high profile, pro-union Minister as MP, has been chosen to blackleg in a dispute.
"Workers at Griffin House have full support for their colleagues in London and are extremely upset that they are being used to betray the strikers. It would bring shame on the name of Wigan.
"Members have been told that if they refuse to do the transferred work they will face
internal disciplinary action or dismissal and we are taking advice from our national union on possible industrial action.
"And we will be making representations to the Minister for Work and Pensions, Ian McCartney."
Mr Easton says that plans are also already in place for the removal of the plastic screens from DSS counters in Wigan.
This comes at a time when assaults on DSS staff from disgruntled benefit claimants are at an all time high.
He said: "Without the protection of the screens workers in Wigan would be wide open to aggression and attack from claimants"